Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Nick Coatsworth speaks to the media during a press conference at the Australian Department of Health in Canberra, Monday, April 20, 2020. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch) NO ARCHIVING
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Nick Coatsworth speaks to the media during a press conference at the Australian Department of Health in Canberra, Monday, April 20, 2020. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch) NO ARCHIVING

‘Honest view’: We can’t eliminate virus

The rate of new coronavirus infections in Australia continues to fall but the country's deputy chief medical officer says eliminating the virus is not a realistic option.

Dr Nick Coatsworth told ABC on Wednesday that Australia is "in a pivotal moment" of the fight against the pandemic, but Australians cannot become complacent.

He said social restrictions will need to remain in place "for at least another three weeks to May 11" but "easing restrictions would, by definition, mean some of those numbers (of cases) could change".

"Businesses and individuals need to prepare, though, that physical distance from one another will need to keep going," he said.

"Great hand hygiene and cough etiquette will need to keep going, because we won't have a vaccine. So, while some restrictions may be lifted, the way we behave has to stay the same."

He rejected the notion that Australia could "eliminate" the virus.

"I'm using the word 'suppression'," he told host Michael Rowland.

 

"I'll tell you why I'm doing that. The problem with using words like 'elimination' and 'eradication' is that we are a non-immune population.

"So, you have to be so sure that you've got to that point that you would need to extend your restrictions for so long to get to that point, that I think that that would, you know, lead to Australians having to be under social restrictions for too long to get there. That's an honest view.

"If, in the process of suppressing, we get to the point of eradication, then that would be a magnificent outcome. But we must continue to build capacity and we must continue to contain the virus, and remember that we're not immune from it. So, the word that - the strategy that we're using - is to 'suppress' COVID-19 until there's a vaccine."

Dr Coatsworth said one of the best ways Australia can get on top of the virus is by downloading the government's tracing app.

"It's important that we give Australians confidence to download the app, and the way we

do that is by making sure that it is very single-focused in what it's trying to do.

 

 

"It's going to detect who we have been next to for greater than 15 minutes, and just keep that data locally on your own mobile phone, in an encrypted way, so that you can't even access it. And if someone - if a public health official, a disease detective calls you, then you will be able to unlock that data for the state that you are in so that the contacts, people at risk, can be contacted.

"And it will seriously help the disease detectives. So, everybody that's coming to us and saying, 'Well, the app could be used for this and that and the other,' we're putting up a big hand and saying, 'No, this app is gonna be used for a single purpose, and a single purpose only, and that is to assist our disease detectives.'

The comments come as Australia's death toll reaches 74 but the rate of new infections continues to fall.

 

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Nick Coatsworth does not believe Australia will “eliminate” the virus. Picture: Lukas Coch/AAP
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Nick Coatsworth does not believe Australia will “eliminate” the virus. Picture: Lukas Coch/AAP

 

The latest victims include women aged 92 and 80 and a man aged 75. All three died in NSW.

There have been more than 6600 cases detected nationally, and 4291 people have recovered from the disease.

No state or territory recorded a double-digit increase in cases on Tuesday as the national infection rate grew at just 0.4 per cent.

Federal and state leaders agreed to lift restrictions on category two and some category three elective surgeries from Monday.

The federal government is eyeing tax cuts, deregulation and industrial relations reform as part of a business-friendly suite of measures on the other side of the crisis.

Students in some states will be heading back to classrooms in another step towards the gradual return to normal life.

- with AAP

Originally published as 'Honest view': We can't eliminate virus


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